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UPDATE: Trial delayed for Meriter employee accused of rape

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email
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UPDATE: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 --- 9:02 a.m.

The Meriter employee accused of raping a co-worker will not stand trial today.

28-year-old Ombeni Pallangyo was charged back in March after another Meriter employee says he ripped her clothes off, held her arms down and raped her.

The jury has been selected for this case and arguments were scheduled to start this morning, but court officials say it's been delayed because of something that happened late last night.

They say details can't be released on why, but did mention that no deal has been made, and the trial will likely be rescheduled.

Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014 --- 9:15 p.m.

Lesley Peterson remembers the moment she says she first felt scared to go to work.

"He backed his chair into me and pinned me between his chair and a table. And when I tried to tell him he was hurting me, he pushed harder," she said.

The Meriter telemetry tech says co-worker Ombeni Pallangyo began verbally and sexually harassing her at the hospital in April of 2012.

"I was really rattled." Peterson says she went to her supervisor and the human resources department to file a complaint against Pallangyo. At the same time, she says she filed a complaint against another coworker who she says was sending her inappropriate text messages.

"They told me they didn't have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment," Peterson said.

Citing privacy, a Meriter spokesperson could not confirm either complaint was filed, but says:

"Sexual harassment allegations are taken very seriously. We encourage all employees to promptly report any harassment and we begin an internal investigation. An employee found to have engaged in harassment will be subject to discipline, which may include termination of employment."

In emails, the director of employee relations explained to Peterson, management had spoken to Pallangyo about his contact with her, but couldn't guarantee she and Pallangyo would not be scheduled on the same shifts in the future.

"I ended up quitting my job to get away," Peterson said. "He had actually said when I had given my notice, that he would follow me and that he would find me."

Two years later, Peterson says she's relieved Pallangyo never contacted her again but is angry to learn Pallangyo's behavior may have escalated.

"I feel as though if he would have been held accountable for his actions before, this never would have happened," she said.

Now she wants the company to change its sexual harassment policy to zero-tolerance.

"I'm coming forward now because I think these women need support because I didn't have any support," Peterson said. "It's unacceptable."

Published: Tuesday, March, 11, 2014 --- 9:45 p.m.

A Meriter Hospital employee faces second degree sexual assault charges, after a coworker accused him of rape.

The alleged sexual assault occurred last August. But up until last week, the suspect was still working at Meriter as a nurse's aide, and has also been recognized in the Madison community for his work with orphanages in Africa.

According to the criminal complaint, Ombeni Pallangyo, 27, brought a female coworker back to his Madison condo on Aug. 23, 2013, where he got on top of her, held her arms down and raped her.

In the complaint, the woman says she and Pallangyo were acquaintances from the hospital. She says she willing went back to his place after he picked her up at a bar, but then told him she wanted to leave. The complaint goes on to state the woman eventually fell asleep there and woke up to him forcefully taking off her clothes.

The next day the woman had a rape kit done at Meriter Hospital.

She says she told management at Meriter she was concerned about working with Pallangyo again. Management advised her to file a police report, which she did a couple days after the incident.

Also detailed in the complaint, the woman's cell phone shows text messages Pallangyo sent her "profusely apologizing" for hurting her that night.

Last week Pallangyo was suspended from work without pay when charges were officially filed in court. A Meriter spokesperson says action was not taken sooner because there wasn't enough information and evidence, adding, harassment allegations are investigated on a case-by-case basis. The spokesperson says since the alleged sexual assault, staff had done their best to make sure the two coworkers had minimal to no contact with each other while on the job.

Meriter says Pallangyo's employment status will depend on the outcome of this case.

NBC15 spoke with Pallangyo on the phone Tuesday. He says the allegations against him are completely untrue.

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